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Not so fast: Tennessee plans news conference amid tumultuous search

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 1, 2017

Multiple reports suggest that the University of Tennessee and athletic director John Currie have parted ways following a tumultuous search for a new football coach. (Wade Payne / AP)
Multiple reports suggest that the University of Tennessee and athletic director John Currie have parted ways following a tumultuous search for a new football coach. (Wade Payne / AP)
By Steve Megargee Associated Press

Tennessee has scheduled an afternoon news conference and is expected to provide an update on its tumultuous, embarrassing search for a football coach.

The news conference Friday will be led by Chancellor Beverly Davenport, not athletic director John Currie, who has been forced out according to multiple reports.

Tennessee fired Butch Jones last month and was close to hiring Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano on Sunday. That deal fell through amid a public backlash. Currie met Thursday with Washington State coach Mike Leach in Los Angeles and flew back to Knoxville early Friday morning, according to people familiar with the meeting. Leach was the latest in a long list of candidates connected to Tennessee over the last week.

Reports linked Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm to Tennessee’s vacancy, but both stayed put. North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren agreed to a new contract Thursday after speaking with Tennessee officials.

Tennessee is conducting this search after possibly the most disappointing season in school history.

After being ranked in the Top 25 at the start of the year, Tennessee went 4-8 to set a school record for losses. The Vols were winless in Southeastern Conference competition for the first time since the league formed in 1933.

The public nature of Tennessee’s inability to find a coach frustrated a fan base already angry about the Vols’ poor 2017 season. People chanted “Fire Currie” on a handful of occasions Monday night during a wrestling show on campus and again Wednesday night during the Tennessee men’s basketball team’s victory over Mercer.

Currie just took over as Tennessee’s athletic director in April after Dave Hart stepped down. Currie agreed to a five-year contract worth at least $900,000 annually. According to terms of Currie’s contract, the school would owe him $5.5 million if he is fired now without cause.

At his introductory news conference , Currie boldly said that Tennessee “can and should be the very best athletics program in the country.”

Currie’s familiarity with Tennessee was seen as a selling point when he got hired. Before coming to Kansas State, he worked at Tennessee for about a decade in various capacities, most recently as a chief deputy and adviser to former athletic director Mike Hamilton.

Hamilton forced out longtime football coach Phillip Fulmer in 2008. This marks Tennessee’s fourth coaching search since Fulmer’s exit.

Fulmer had publicly expressed his interest in the athletic director position, but Currie was chosen as Hart’s replacement instead.

Tennessee announced in June that Fulmer had been named a special adviser for community, athletics and university relations. The part-time position pays Fulmer $100,000 annually and was seen as a way to unite a fan base divided over whether Fulmer should have been chosen as athletic director.

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